During the summer's usual glut of group shows, it's always refreshing when an art space treats the format less as a mandate and more as a generative opportunity. This summer, Interstate Projects is embracing this challenge. Run by gallerists Tom Weinrich and Jamie Sterns, the Bushwick gallery is currently in the middle of debuting "U:L:O," an annual, six-week curatorial program inviting emerging artists and curators to organize concurrent group shows in three very different environments.
"U:L:O" is named for Interstate's three spaces: the upper room, which is a roomy white cube; the lower space, comprising a comparatively unfinished basement; and outside, which is an open-air concrete courtyard. The program pairs a curator or curating group with each space.
"Interstate is unique for a younger gallery because it's so large. We want to share that space with our peer group," Jamie Sterns told A.i.A. According to Sterns, "U:L:O"'s objective is to "create a convergence of what is happening ‘now' within various art groups." Its curators and artists come from around the country—a long-standing commitment of Interstate's programming.
This year, "U:L:O" is occurring in two sessions. "U:L:O: Part I," which closes July 13, is organized by artists who run (or have recently run) galleries outside of New York, and who work with "overlapping communities of artists with shared aesthetics and themes," according to Sterns. Visitors first encounter Zachary Davis's outdoor show "Infinite Border," which features installations by Sol Hashemi, Sara Ludy and Cameron Rowland so discreetly woven into their courtyard environment that it's hard to pin down exactly where they start and finish. According to Davis (formerly a curator of Appendix, a now-closed project space in Portland, Ore.), he "wanted works that could appear to mobilize the entire built environment around them, or, alternately, disappear. That it was the gallery's entry and exit area too seemed to fit." Passage, permeability, and disappearance do unify these works' effects. Rowland's contribution, a disconnected power conduit hanging high above Interstate's entryway, is essentially camouflaged within the courtyard's Bushwick brutalism; in a far corner, Ludy projects a video which, during the daylight of visiting hours, is so slightly visible that it seems a hallucinatory impression. Hashemi's piece is the most concrete and elaborate of the three. It runs a wire along the far wall of the courtyard and through several situations: on one end, the wire dangles a container of coffee beans into a heat vent, in the middle it runs through a log slice propped up by metal armatures, and on the other end it is weighed down by some of the courtyard's potted plants.
Passing from the courtyard to the interior, in the upper space is "Now Feel Bad," a much louder exhibition organized by Chicago gallery Queer Thoughts. Jared Madere contributes parts of a Suzuki racing motorcycle resting on a flower-strewn tarp, along with a refrigerator that, when opened, turns out to be full of acrid mold. Looming over the bike are two metallic prints by Darja Bajagić, which appropriate images from a pornography website. In one, a squinting, smiling woman looks down at the viewer, exposing her breasts. In the other, the same woman looks down with the same expression, pointing a plastic submachine gun at the viewer.
Downstairs is Oakland gallery Important Projects' "psy•cho•so•mat•ic•ad•dict•in•sane," packing sculptural and two-dimensional works from 13 artists into the basement. Of particular note are Eric Veit's three glass tea kettles, steeping materials like rose and ginseng with goat knuckles and fingernails; as well as a flat-lying quilt by Erin Jane Nelson, "Princess Loko" (2014), which incorporates photography, clipart, and stitched-in earbuds.
"U:L:O: Part II," which will run from July 18 through August 3, will feature very different artistic communities, as well as a thematic focus on archives. CAVE, a collectively organized exhibition space in Detroit, is filling the courtyard more robustly than Davis: their show, "Paper for the Sky," will expose works on paper from 41 artists to the elements, enacting a kind of anti-conservation. Blonde Art Books, a New York publishing organization run by Sonel Breslav, will turn the basement into a cinema that will screen a "preview reel" of trailers made for books, featuring 11 previews in all. The corresponding publications will also be on display.
Lastly, New York artist Ben Gocker will present "INSIDE OUT," featuring Jamel Shabazz and Armand Schaubroeck—two artists whose work deals with their lives' involvement with the American prison system. According to Gocker, "for Schaubroeck, that means taking the harrowing experience of his incarceration and turning it into art and music; for Shabazz it means being a vigilant observer of his workplace and creating a document of that time in his life and in the lives of all those he worked beside as a corrections officer." "INSIDE OUT" will feature music, paintings, and ephemera from Schaubroeck's experience of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, including his quadrophonic, 1975 triple-LP rock opera A Lot of People Would Like to See Armand Schaubroeck...DEAD, as well as never-before-exhibited photographs by Shabazz documenting the African American community throughout New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s.